PR Myth-busting: Dispelling 5 common PR misconceptions

One of the driving forces behind The PR Pocketbook is the fact that, for many, PR is a bit of a vague concept. Not many people, certainly outside the communications industry, feel confident in their understanding of what PR actually is.


On top of this, certain pop culture figures, along with some bad press of PR itself (think the ‘spin doctor’ perception, etc.), have led many to feel a sense of estrangement from PR. With this blog, I’d like to set the record straight…


I’ve gone into pretty fine detail in my previous blogs about what PR is, but equally important to consider is what PR is not. So, let’s get myth-busting…



What PR actually is


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This one isn’t exactly a myth as such, but I do think there remains an air of mystery around what PR actually is. People aren’t too sure what counts as PR, where PR sits under the communications umbrella or even how it's distinct from all the other facets of marketing. So, let’s start by clearing that up. For anyone who doesn’t know what PR is, it stands for public relations and is essentially the discipline that takes care of the reputation of a company or individual. PR is all about managing and maintaining a positive public image, using various forms of media and communication in order to do so. It’s not publicity, it’s not advertising, it’s not sales. It is its own unique function.


In contrast to the others, PR is all about building authentic connections over time, through communications, storytelling and emphasising the human side of your business. If you’d like to learn more about this, you can check out my dedicated blog post on the topic here. Now, this brings me on to the second myth I wanted to dispel, which is that…

‘PR is no different from marketing’


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This is simply not the case. Whilst the lines between PR and marketing are blurring and there are indeed some elements that overlap, they remain two separate practices. This is at the very least evidenced by the fact that PR and Marketing are two distinct degrees with entirely different modules at university. So, how do PR and marketing differ? First and foremost, if you look at the traditional definitions of each practice, the difference is pretty clear. Marketing is defined as being focused on promoting and selling a specific product, while PR is defined as being focused on maintaining a positive reputation over time. So, their goals and longevity are different. As well as this, the day to day responsibilities of PR and Marketing professionals can differ vastly and, because of that, the way they measure success can be very different as well. Marketing professionals are more likely to look at things like sales goals and ROI, while PR professionals may be more concerned with coverage secured or social media buzz generated. I could go on and on, but I hope that’s gone some way in proving that there is a definite distinction between the two practices.

Isn’t it just press releases?


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No PR professional likes to hear this, because the answer is unequivocally ‘NO’. The nature of PR, particularly on the agency side, is that you will be working on multiple tasks for multiple clients at any one time. This can range from event organisation to award entry drafting, from writing articles to hosting media interviews. So much falls under the PR umbrella nowadays, and a PR's job is quite literally never done. So, no. PR is not just press releases!


The ‘Samantha Jones’ myth


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From the glamorous life of Samantha Jones to the crazy antics of Edina Monsoon, pop culture has done a great job of painting a very unrealistic picture of PR.


Unfortunately for those who have bought into those misrepresentations, PR is not all glamorous events and influencer gifting. We are very lucky, as PR professionals, that this more exciting side of things is a part of our job, but it’s certainly not all of it. In fact, it’s only really a tiny part of it. Alongside the glamorous events comes a manic schedule, demanding hours and frankly a lot of hard work. So, don’t let the sitcoms fool you!


PR is outdated and soon won’t be needed at all


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This is a misconception that I'll never buy into. The general misunderstanding of PR and its functions have led some to question whether PR is, in fact, an outdated discipline. Some even question whether PR as a practice will soon be redundant. I have some very strong views against this.


First of all, it’s important to note that PR has done a pretty phenomenal job of rolling with the times over the past few decades, so I’m not sure why anyone would question its ability to keep doing so. In the last ten years even, PR has undergone a radical transformation from traditional to digital, and I have every faith that it will continue to evolve to meet the needs of businesses everywhere.


Further to this, despite the technological age in which we live, human relationships will always remain fundamental to the way we live and do business, and PR is, if anything, centred in human relationships. Maintaining strong relationships with key stakeholders will always be a business necessity, and it’s PR that makes this happen. The competitive edge that PR can give businesses should not be underestimated, and I don't think this will ever change.


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With that comes the end of today's PR myth-busting blog. If you were ever in any doubt, I hope that it’s helped to dispel some common PR misconceptions and strengthen your understanding of PR in the process. As with every social science, PR can be tricky to get your head around, but that’s what I’m here for.


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